Gong Orchestra

Tonight I had the pleasure of seeing the incredible percussionist Tatsuya Nakatani and his gong orchestra at MOMA in Cleveland. Tatsuya is a Japanese-born percussionist and improvising innovator. The first set was a tremendous solo percussion set. This type of playing is what Tatsuya is best known for. The gong plays a large role in his ‘kit,’ and he pulls incredible tones out of it with the bow. These ringing, resonant tones are mixed with crashes, scratching sounds, and a host of other tones. I sat in the back where I couldn’t see what he was doing so the sounds were really interesting. I’ve found in the past that watching him make the sounds takes some of the mystery out of it, though it is fascinating to watch him play.



The second half of the concert was the Nakatani Gong Ensemble. Tatsuya had a dozen or so gongs of all different sizes set up on the stage. He conducted local players who bowed and struck the gongs according to a series of hand signals.

gong orchestra


hand gestures


These ringing tones from these gongs mix with each other and create cool textures and effects. As some gongs become more prominent and others fade away different combinations of sounds are produced. Sometimes there were consonant harmonies and other times it was washed-out gong sounds.



gongs 2


I have seen Tatsuya play a couple of times, starting when I was in college and he came and played on the concert series that Kyle Farrell and I put on. This is the poster we made to advertise his concert in Youngstown. He stayed at our house that night. It was wonderful to get to talk with him about what he does and music and life. He told us to start cleaning our house and act like adults.

Tatsuya poster